Central Arizona Jeepers is a fun-loving, family-friendly group of Jeep enthusiasts who live by one simple rule: “No one gets left on the trail.”
During the planning and research phase of my 13 state – 2 country – 11 month trip, I reached out to my friend Jerry (one of the founding four members of The Jeep Mafia) who lives in Arizona. I figured I’d ask him about his favorite Jeep club or group in the state. Without hesitating, he pointed me towards the Central Arizona Jeepers.
Jerry went a step further and graciously connected me with the Director of the Central Arizona Jeepers, Cheri Baumgartner.
Oh yeah, about my trip this year…
As my regular readers know, I’m currently on my “Western Mountain Loop” trip in 2018.
Central Arizona Jeepers: How To Find Them
Anyhow, back to the story…
Cheri was super sweet and laid-back. I knew this was going to be a fun interview.
When I asked her to tell me about the Central Arizona Jeepers in a nutshell, she simply said, “We 4×4, we chat, we eat, we share stories, we explore new areas and trails…and basically we have fun!”
Well that’s what all Jeep clubs should be about, right? Check this out…
Arizona is an amazing place to wheel. So if you live in the area and haven’t connected with the Central Arizona Jeepers, I suggest you do so right now on their Facebook page. That’s the hub of their activity.
But first, their story…
Central Arizona Jeepers: Origins
The Central Arizona Jeepers was founded back in 2006 by Jack Hammitt. It started off, like most Jeep clubs, as a handful of friends that shared a similar passion for Jeeps.
What made them unique though wasn’t the passion for Jeeps, but the amazing backyard they had at their home base in Central Arizona.
You see, Central Arizona Jeepers is based out of Prescott, Arizona, about 90 miles north of Phoenix and 80 miles south of Flagstaff at the base of the Bradshaw Mountains.
You seriously couldn’t ask for a nicer playground. Less than an hour and a half from Sedona? Yes, please.
Already sitting at 5500 feet of elevation, just about anywhere surrounding them is Jeep country.
At the time Cheri joined the club, her and her husband were Jeep newbies. They, like most newbies who join, just wanted to learn more about their Jeep and what it was actually capable of. It was a brand new world to them.
They didn’t know what to expect when they attended their first meet up. Their hopes were just to have some questions answered. What they did not expect was to have their lives changed due to the kindness and camaraderie that they were met with.
Cheri recalls that the initial conversations and meet ups weren’t awkward at all. Instead, everyone welcomed them as if they were already life-long friends or family. This was something that really impacted them and left them wanting more. Isn’t that how all Jeep meet ups should be?
Well needless to say, Cheri and her husband became active members of the Central Arizona Jeepers. At the time I’m sure Cheri had no idea that in a couple of years she’d be the Director of the club.
Central Arizona Jeepers: Leadership Shift, Core Values Remain
It happened to pass that founder Jack Hammitt retired from the club during 2007/2008 and basically handed over the “keys” to the club to Cheri and wished her luck.
For over a decade now, Cheri and her team at Central Arizona Jeepers have been coming up with new and fun ways to get Jeepers in Arizona together for good times.
Today, the Central Arizona Jeepers club has over 1300 members. Still following the one simple rule of “No one gets left on the trail.”
True to Cheri’s description of the club, they are all about wheeling, hanging out, sharing stories, and having fun.
One thing that hasn’t changed, since the club’s inception at the hands of Jack Hammitt, is that you’ll never feel awkward at your first meet up. Instead you’ll be welcomed like family.
Personally, I’m hoping to connect with some of these Jeepers myself next week when I get into the Grand Canyon State.
Central Arizona Jeepers: Purpose
The Central Arizona Jeepers tend to leave a lasting impression on those they connect with.
They have people from all over the world who keep in touch with them. Because their backyard (yes you should be a little jealous) is so perfect for Jeeping, everyone who travels to, or through, the area wants to connect with them. From “snowbirds” who travel between Arizona to their 2nd state of residence to visitors from across the globe, all Jeepers are welcomed by this group.
Speaking of snowbirds, yes, Arizona gets snow. As such the time of year impacts the level of activity of the group as a whole. But typically you can expect anywhere from 15-30 Jeeps at any given organized event. Some of their events have even pushed close to 60 Jeeps on a single trail!
The Central Arizona Jeepers organize one to two trail runs per month ranging from easy and scenic to challenging “let’s see if we can snap an axle today.” But don’t worry, remember, no one gets left on the trail.
Central Arizona Jeepers: Charitable Causes
In addition to trail runs, the Central Arizona Jeepers also have a charitable aspect to them.
This year they are working with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital for a Christmas toy drive. They toys are kept in a secure area and parents will be able to sneak away and pick out toys for their children leaving one less thing for them to worry about this year. All excess toys are kept year-round for families to be blessed when they have family members who are going through a rough patch, or simply need a smile. There is no cost to the families that take advantage of this program.
Cheri told me of a time back in 2013 when Arizona lost 19 of their Hotshots in a forest fire near Yarnell, AZ. So, in conjunction with Discount Tire, and The 100 Club, the Central Arizona Jeepers decided to hold a fundraising carwash to collect donations for the families of those affected. The event was a huge success. Beyond the water fights and much needed joy during that difficult time, these groups were able to make a significant impact for those in immediate need.
Beyond that, the Central Arizona Jeepers are also active in cleaning up the desert and forest floor. They work in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management to keep the Arizona lands and trails clean and beautiful.
Sounds like a pretty cool bunch of Jeepers to me.
Central Arizona Jeepers: Membership
There are no dues or fees for membership in the Central Arizona Jeepers, but there are a few requirements.
- You must drive a mechanically sound Jeep
- Have a good sense of humor and a great sense of adventure
- Be family friendly. Families are encouraged to join as a group
- It is definitely appropriate to bring your fur babies (dogs). They love them at Central Arizona Jeepers
Oh and regarding the fur babies, “Dogs must have their owners on a leash at all times.”
As far as the naughty-list, meaning what can get you booted from the club?
Well going off of a trail onto an undesignated, or unmarked trail, will get you booted pretty quick.
The Central Arizona Jeepers spend a lot of time taking care of the trails. They also spend time nurturing the relationship with the professionals who do it full time. So off-trail driving is a BIG no-no.
Also keep the language clean at the meet ups, remember the family friendly atmosphere of the club. Respect those two rules and you should be golden!
Central Arizona Jeepers: Summary
If I had to summarize the Central Arizona Jeepers into one sentence, it would be: A welcoming family-friendly group of Jeepers who treat you like family, like to have fun, and take care of their environment and community.
If you are in Central Arizona, or maybe you’re just passing through, get to know these folks. Get involved. You might just find your new Jeep family.
Until next time, keep it dirty and wheels side down.